With this column, we initiate a new series of book reviews here at LitKicks. If you would like your own work reviewed, please read the note at the end of this article.
Crawl Space is by Edie Meidav, who specializes in sharp fables of historical consequence. Her first novel, The Far Field, took us to a heart of darkness inside colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) between the first and second world wars. Meidav might have spent her career exploring the literary terrains of Southeast Asia, but Crawl Space delivers a change-up, taking us to a modern-day French village where a villainous Nazi collaborator awaits the latest in a lifetime of war crime prosecutions.
This villian is the story’s narrator, and with a gleeful guilt-soaked voice that somehow recalls Humbert Humbert in Lolita he tells us how he’s evaded conviction with facial surgery, good lawyers and dumb luck. Of course, just as Humbert did, the narrator will convict himself before the book is over. Meidav is a skillful storyteller, and my only gripe with this book is the choice of subject. Nazi atrocities have become a cliche and are certainly old news in a world that serves up wartime atrocities like McDonald’s serves up hamburgers. The territory is overly familiar — why not take us to Bosnia, or Africa, or Korea, or Iraq? I like Meidav’s approach to historical analysis through fiction, but there is newer ground to cover, and I’m looking forward to her next journey, wherever it may take us.
Steve Aylett’s Lint is a completely wacky outing, a biography of a crazed science-fiction author named Jeff Lint who never existed. Being unfamiliar with the sci-fi genre (and, obviously, a real dupe), it took several paragraphs before I realized the book is an elaborate and unhinged comedy (I puzzled for much longer than I should have over the remark that Lint used to write under the pen name “Isaac Asimov”). Lint offers a wide sweep of pulp/junk/underground culture, with clever fake book cover reproductions and a vortex of cameo appearances by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Maurice Girodias and Gene Roddenberry. I love the part about Lint’s JFK conspiracy theory, which posits that the same assassin killed several presidents: “… the Magic Bullet was a ricochet from that fired by John Wilkes Booth at Lincoln in 1865. In outline, the bullet entered through Lincoln’s left ear and emerged through his right eye, swerving out of Washington’s Ford Theatre and heading north, felling politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee as he walked to his home on Sparks Street, Ottowa; ricocheting back along its original course, the bullet hit President James Garfield as he boarded a train …”. There are several pages of this before the bullet even arrives at the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza.
Michael K. Gause‘s Tequila Chronicles is a charming chapbook that must have been inspired by Baudelaire’s instruction for life: ‘Be always drunken’. The image of a wine bottle graces the cover, an actual beer coaster is pasted onto the last page, and every poem is annotated with the variety of alcohol the poet remembers imbibing while writing it (despite the chapbook’s title, beer and wine seem to be his favorites, and one can only wonder what tawdry circumstances led him to annotate one poem with “unknown”). The visual style even recalls Baudelaire, with a simulated hot-metal font that looks vaguely Parisian. Too many chapbooks are ciphers, and I like it that this one has a clear theme and a consistent style. I give the poet high marks even though I suspect he may need some fresh air and exercise.
Finally, a note about these reviews. We began asking authors and publishers to send us review copies several weeks ago, but were dismayed to receive a flood of emails containing Word documents, PDF files and pasted-in poems. The point of book reviews is to inform readers of works they can buy, and there’s little point in telling readers about books that are not yet available for them to enjoy.
Most distressingly, when I explained this to a few of the authors in question, more than one replied to me that the books they sent are in fact published (usually via iUniverse, AuthorHouse, xLibris, etc.) but that they did not want to spend money buying me a review copy. People. You are asking me to spend several hours of my time reading your book … I think you see where I’m going with this. No more PDF’s or Word files, please …